Wednesday, April 29, 2020

Snowflake warning

I read a blog post recently about word etymology at a time when it was very relevant. The author points out how word usage has metamorphosed over time to change in meaning, sometimes only slightly and sometimes more dramatically. For those of you who are word nerds like me, here’s a link to The Kill Zone. Of particular interest was the commentary on indigenous.

My upcoming release, UNINTENDED CONSEQUENCES, releases next month, and it travels into Native American territory. In order to accurately portray the culture, I reached out to a fellow author who is Native American (shout out to @SR Howen). She was very gracious and offered me several references along with her own personal experience. She also suggested the word indigenous to refer to Native Americans, along with “don’t refer to them as” terms. I also contacted another resource who did a sensitivity reading for me and got a “second opinion.” I chose to add a disclaimer that reminded readers this was fiction, and some of what I’d written is protected and private and because I wrote it, and it isn't necessarily accurate (this is fiction, artistic license). This is what my editor called “a snowflake warning.” Look at that! Another etymology change around the use of the word snowflake!

My editor pointed out my use of the word indigenous and how “technically “ it could be misconstrued or inaccurate. If I hadn’t been specifically pointed to that term by someone who “lives the life,” I might have reconsidered my word choice. This is one time I have to overrule my editor.

It's a challenge in these times to be considerate of everyone's feelings, but it's something I do strive to do - hence a sensitivity reader. At the end of the day, everyone's experience is different. When I wrote COOKIE THERAPY, the firemen I interviewed (three of them) gave me different approaches to the climactic scene, to the point where the scenario I worked through with one was deemed as impossible and deadly by another. I won't always get it right. The best I can do is get close enough and hope people forgive me for my mistakes. After all, everybody's experiences are different, after all, and that can even vary by geography. In the end, I can only hope I created an enjoyable reading experience.

UNINTENDED CONSEQUENCES releases May 12. You can preorder now, or if you follow me at Amazon or Bookbub, they'll email you when it goes live.

Get it here


  1. I also think vocabulary differs depending on where you live. I know one expression that grates for me is "The dishes need washed," yet apparently it's common usage in the Midwest. I remember the brouhaha about sports teams being named after Native American/indigenous/First Nation/Indians. My high school mascot was a Warrior. No longer. They're Wildcats now. Tony Hillerman, who wrote Native American protagonists in his books asked a tribe how they referred to themselves. They said, "Indians." In Florida, the Seminole nation encouraged FSU to keep using Seminoles for their school.
    In your case, as long as you reached out to people who belonged to the same tribe as the one in your book, I wouldn't worry about offending people. As you said, you'll upset some. But you'll upset people no matter what you write. Everyone can find something to pick at. You know you did your best.

    1. I've actually gone generic with the name of the tribe. While I'd chosen one that is local to the area, I understand after the injustices that were done, many of the tribes have intermixed in some areas. Since the location of my reservation was fictionalized, I also borrowed a street sign from another location where there is an intermixed reservation. More artistic license.